Students graduating from Harlem’s Children’s Zone Promise Academy Class of 2019 received some “happy” news from commencement speaker, Pharrell Williams.
“So, let me be clear. For every member of the 2019 graduating class is guaranteed an internship waiting for them next summer,” Williams announced in his speech to thunderous applause from the crowd. “The world is watching Harlem, but this renaissance will be different and believe it or not, with respect, it’s gonna actually be better. The reason why is because the New Harlem Renaissance has education at its core.”
All 114 graduates, who each are headed to colleges and universities across the country, took in the moment, along with the CEO of the school.
“It’s not every day folks see a school of black and brown children who have closed the achievement gap,” said HCZ CEO Anne Williams-Isom @msannehcz.
Williams, who never seems to age, is using his star power to help a new generation of scientists, doctors, lawyers, artists and possibly producers like himself. In early 2019, Williams started a partnership with Verizon to bring network connectivity and cutting edge technology, such as robotics and virtual reality, to underserved middle schools around the country.
On its Instagram page, The Harlem Children’s Zone has as its mission that it is “doing whatever it takes to help our 13,500 kids get to and through college and end the cycle of generational poverty in Central Harlem.”
Promise Academy is a kindergarten through a 12th-grade charter school.
The “new Harlem Renaissance” or “second Harlem Renaissance” is a loaded phrase for longtime residents, who may equate the term with all the changes gentrification has brought to the historically black neighborhood. But to be fair, while the phrasing may be clunky, the heart of Williams’ message—a commitment to education—is one he’s been true to.
I know we’re happy for these lucky kids!